When Delta Airlines pilot Alexander Kahn was tasked with flying Afghan evacuees from Germany to the United States, the moment felt special to him.
“My father was a Holocaust survivor,” he told CNN. “[He] came to the United States not much different from the people that are coming to the United States now. He was coming with the clothes on his back, no family, no English skills, and had to start life over again.”
As he flew the plane with Afghans coming to the US, he said he was able to “put myself in their position.”
“They’re starting a new life. This is going to be a frightening experience for them. But it has the potential to be an excellent experience for them.”
The flight crew took the initiative to prepare by using their own money to buy supplies for the children and other evacuees who were going to be on board, Kahn said Friday.
“We knew these evacuees were coming with no opportunity to prepare and to take things that you and I would prepare for [with] an international flight. [The crew spent] their own money, they purchased diapers and wipes and candy and balloons, coloring books and other things they knew the evacuees were going to need, and refused to take any reimbursement from us, from the pilots for this,” he added.
Kahn flew the evacuees to the US out of the Ramstein US Air Base, which is where he first learned to fly an airplane and where he got his pilot’s license.
Years from now, if he had the chance to meet an evacuee, he says he would ask them about their goals and give them hope.
“I think I’d probably ask them, how was their experience? Have they been able to reach goals that they never dreamed possible? And to give them hope, to show them that we are a land of legal immigrants, and this is what built the United States. We’re a generous country because we’re a generous people, and the future is theirs.”